I was reminded today of the study from Darley and Batson (1973) about some students at Princeton Theological Seminary. From the abstract:
Examined ... the helping behavior of 40 theology students in an emergency situation suggested by the parable of the Good Samaritan. Ss going between 2 buildings encountered a shabbily dressed person slumped by the side of the road. Ss in a hurry to reach their destination were more likely to pass by without stopping. Some Ss were going to give a short talk on the parable of the Good Samaritan, others on a nonhelping relevant topic; this made no significant difference in the likelihood of their giving the victim help. ...
What I had forgotten, or failed to notice before, was the role that being in a hurry had on the students' choices in regards to the person in need. Here is one person's summary of the results:
Overall 40% offered some help to the victim. In low hurry situations, 63% helped, medium hurry 45% and high hurry 10%. ...And the conclusion:
Ironically, a person in a hurry is less likely to help people, even if he is going to speak on the parable of the Good Samaritan. (Some literally stepped over the victim on their way to the next building!). The results seem to show that thinking about norms does not imply that one will act on them. Maybe that "ethics become a luxury as the speed of our daily lives increases". Or maybe peoples cognition was narrowed by the hurriedness and they failed to make the immediate connection of an emergency. Many subjects who did not stop did appear aroused and anxious when the arrived at the second site.
They were in a conflict between helping the victim and meeting the needs of the experimenter. Conflict rather than callousness can explain the failure to stop.
This brought to mind the conflict teachers are facing with the end of the year rapidly approaching: preparing students versus nurturing learners. There is content to cover, content that will be on next year's standardized-test, and teachers want their students to be adequately prepared because the school's adequate yearly progress may be at stake. But the teachers also recognize that all this cramming is taking the joy out of learning, and many of these teachers would rather be exploring content with their learners rather than force feeding it to them. What wins out? Well, there are high-stakes and very little time.
Are we, as teachers, stepping over the victim (students) to meet some important appointment we think we must meet (curriculum)?
One last connection before I let you have your say. An old friend used to remind me whenever I was complaining about all I had to get done, "there is enough time." When I would begin to argue, listing all the important stuff I still had to do, he would reply with something like this:
"The only thing you HAVE to do today is breathe in and breathe out. You could survive the day without food or water or sleep. The things you have listed are things you want to do - things you or others find urgent. But at the end of the day, everything that must get done gets done, and that begins and ends with breathing. Anything else you accomplish is just frosting on the cake."
So teachers, please take a breath, slow down, enjoy Teacher Appreciation Week, and accept that everything that needs to get done will get done.